Gulf Times - Gulf Times Sport



New Delhi: All-rounder Hardik Pandya has been facing the wrath of jeering fans in the Indian Premier League this season, with the Mumbai Indians struggling since he took charge from the much-loved Rohit Sharma. Five-time winners Mumbai replaced Rohit, who leads India in all formats, as captain before the IPL season started last month after the India all-rounder Pandya returned from Gujarat.

The homecoming has been tough for Pandya, who has been booed incessantl­y as his side slumped to three consecutiv­e defeats, the latest at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on Monday. Pandya’s reception could not have been more different.

After being traded from Gujarat back to Mumbai for $1.8mn, his immediate elevation as captain went down badly with the legions of Rohit fans.

Rohit, 36, remains an icon in Mumbai after leading the team to five IPL titles since taking over from Australia’s Ricky Ponting in 2013.

Mumbai’s winless record with Pandya in charge this season has done nothing to win over the fans in the cricket-mad country. The 30-year-old had another forgettabl­e evening on Monday against Rajasthan Royals, even being jeered at the toss by home fans, prompting presenter Sanjay

Manjrekar to call on them to “behave”. But the crowd kept up their hostility towards Pandya throughout, with Rohit gesturing to the fans to stop at one point. Pandya, who was once regarded as a possible successor to the ageing Rohit to captain India’s T20 team, admitted it was a “tough night”.

The tattooed star with his love for watches is still searching for a first win in charge at Mumbai, who are rooted to the foot of the 10-team table.

Veteran commentato­r Harsha Bhogle drew a comparison with football.

“What is happening with the that the ‘clannishne­ss’ has grown,” Bhogle told Indian website Cricbuzz.

“The more the rivalries are built up, the more people have something in it.”

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